Do you have a big but?

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By Kurt Bubna

Some men impact our lives for a moment, others for eternity. Noel Campbell was a spiritual father to many in Spokane and a huge part of my life for over 40 years. He went to be with Jesus on Sept. 5 at the age of 87. Noel taught me more about unconditional love and grace than any man I’ve ever known. This column is dedicated to his memory.

Let’s face it, some of you have big buts (the one “t” variety, not the other). By that I mean you live in a state of constant emotional and relational tension because you live in the land of but . . .

  • I know I’m supposed to forgive my spouse, but . . .
  • I know my BFF didn’t mean to be a jerk, but . . .
  • I know my mom didn’t intend to hurt me, but . . .
  • I know my spouse isn’t perfect, but . . .
  • I know my son is trying to change, but . . .

Sadly, you’ve created a “yeah, but” world that is killing you. It’s robbing you of joy. It’s creating unnecessary tension in your relationships. And worst of all, it’s setting you up to love conditionally.

The second you add a “but,” you add a condition or an excuse. You are saying to others, “I know the right thing to do, but my choice to do the right thing is subject to your choice to do the right thing.” You are rationalizing your half-hearted love and acceptance of others based on their actions.

Did you know that God expects (demands, actually) that you love others as He loves you? And his love for you is unconditional — never based on your performance. Your love for others is not dependent on the circumstances, their competence, or your emotions. There’s no, “I love you, but . . .”

Why does this matter? Because God knows that radical and unconditional love changes people. Love without strings attached motivates them to want to honor that selfless love. When people know they are valued for who they are — no matter what they do, they are inspired to respond to that love in kind. However, even if your love doesn’t change them, you love. Period. No excuses. No exceptions.

So drop the but and simply love others as you are loved by the Father.

Let’s look at this from another angle. Sometimes we say “yeah, but” to God.

  • I know I’m forgiven, but . . .
  • I know You have a plan for my life, but . . .
  • I know You love me, but . . .

Essentially, you say to God, “I believe in You, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make it to heaven, but I’m not sure You know what You’re doing concerning me.”

You know in your knower that you don’t deserve and haven’t earned God’s love and favor. You believe in his goodness, but you also know, better than anybody else, your badness. So the tension in your soul grows with every failure. “I know I’m loved, but . . . “

It’s time to drop the but with God, too.

Of course, God wants you to grow. Certainly, his goal for you is spiritual and relational maturity.

However, to live in the joy of his grace and the freedom of his love means you accept and revel in his unstoppable, unconditional, and unrelenting affection for you! There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or any less than he already does.

God knows you’ll never be perfect until you’re on the other side of eternity. His expectations of your perfection are not as high as your expectations.

So the only time it’s acceptable to use but is when it’s followed by God!

  • I know I’m not perfect yet, but God . . .
  • I know my past is littered with failure, but God . . .
  • I know I’m prone to wander, but God . . .
  • I know I don’t deserve the blessings of Jesus in my life, but God . . .

When you remove the big buts from your relationship with God and from your relationships with others, everything changes because you change.

One last thing: Does my sin make my but look big? Oh yeah.

But God is bigger than any but.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” – Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV


About Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna published his first book, "Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot," with Tyndale in 2013. He has recently published "Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in Perfectly Imperfect Marriage" and two other books. Bubna is an active blogger, itinerate speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Senior Pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large non-denominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Wash. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for nearly 40 years and have four grown children and six grandchildren.

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